Public Works in the dock over poor court and prison maintenance

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Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola appears to have similar problems with Patricia de Lille’s Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) as the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) as far as maintaining and keeping fixed assets – mainly buildings – in good order.

The military has partially overcome the lack of and – sometimes shoddy – work done by a department that once billed itself as “government’s landlord” by initially establishing a works regiment. This has grown into a formation with units based in each of the nine provinces.

While refurbishment and repair work on defence buildings is not all in the hands of the Works Formation, its command works in conjunction with DPWI personnel to see work is properly done, on time and within set budgets.

A notable exception is the long-running upgrade of what was the SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) flagship military medical facility – 1 Military Hospital in Thaba Tshwane.

A recent visit to Barberton in Mpumalanga by Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services (PCJCS) brought a sorry state of affairs to light at Barberton Correctional Centre and Community Corrections. This led to the committee resolving to “summon” DPWI to respond to complaints including an alleged failure to maintain public buildings, both prisons and the courts – also part of Lamola’s Cabinet portfolio.

Post the oversight visit PCJCS chair Bulelani Magwanishe said, according to a Parliamentary Communication Services statement: “We are going to be hard on DPWI”.

“We will invite the Director-General to explain why there are complaints about court buildings and prisons, while people are employed there every day.”

Magwanishe questioned whether what he termed “alleged negligence” by DPWI could be construed as a threat to national security.